Saturday, June 26, 2004

Pyrotechnic Propaganda?: Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11

I ROSE BRIGHT AND EARLY SATURDAY TO CATCH an 11:15 a.m. showing of Michael Moore's cinematic polemic, Fahrenheit 9/11.

Let me start by saying that, going into the film, I was not George W. Bush's #1 fan... nor #2... nor in the top 10... Let's just say that if there were a George W. Bush fan club, I'd be the first to buy it... and beat him with it!

Figuratively speaking, of course. (Hello, Secret Service!)

Now, on with the show.

As the opening credits roll, Bush and selected members of his Cabinet - Powell, Rice, Rumsfield - are shown in various stages of having their faces made-up for the camera. (In one shot, a less familiar Republican, after unsuccessfully trying to tame his stubborn cowlick with a handful of spit, wets his comb in his mouth and tries again. When that fails, his assistant wets his own hand with spit in a final secretion-as-hairgrease attempt to tame the cowlick himself.)

Which is to say that Moore portrays the Bush presidency as a low-budget vaudeville act which tax-payers are paying top-dollar to believe.

Michael Moore narrates the film the way Cathy Bates might read Hansel & Gretel to a wide-eyed child. To a soundtrack of banjo music, the film opens with a fairytale sequence recounting the controversy around Bush's election: the Florida recount fiasco; the Black Caucus protesting President-elect Bush's illegal seizure of power on the Senate floor; Bush's speeding inaugural motorcade being pelted with eggs by protesters; Bush - for his own safety - being unable to even take the customary first walk to the White House.

A few sequences of ranch vacation footage later, the fairytale ends - not with the site of the World Trade Center - but with an ominous black screen as the audio footage of Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower begins.

We then get the film's first priceless moment (well, not exactly pricless; we paid for it): President Bush in a second-grade Florida classroom as a Secret Service agent whispers that a second plane has crashed - this time into the North Tower. The agent disappears and, without anyone around to tell him what to do, little-boy Bush sits looking stupidly for 7 full minutes without moving.

And the film is full of such priceless moments - from the hilarious to the horrifying. Upon being questioned about the whereabouts of the elusive WMD's, Rumsfield affirms, "We know they're there. We know where they are. They're in the East, North... South... and West!" Upon a Congressman admitting that they never entirely read any bills that they sign, Michael Moore rents an ice cream truck and drives round-and-round in a circle, reading the text of the Patriot Act on a bullhorn in front of the Capitol. Upon learning that only 1 Congressperson out of over 500 has a child serving in Iraq, Moore takes a recruiter to the Capitol to attempt to get Senators and Representatives to enlist their sons and daughters for Iraq. With these public figures knowing they were being filmed, you still would not believe the you gotta be kidding me looks the recruiter got.

And the horrific includes Iraqi men, women, and children; crying, here screaming, and there speechless; some armless, some legless, and some headless. But all venomously cursing America.

A woman, standing outside of her burning home, screams over the sirens at the top of her lungs for Allah to bring a shower of bombs down on the homes of those who terrorize her. Moore isn't questioning the notion of attacking, he's questioning who we attack.

Moore notes that two days after the World Trade Center attacks, during the "absolute" shutdown of U.S. airspace, 142 Saudis, including 24 of Osama bin Laden's relatives, were permitted, not only to fly but, to leave the country! And without ever being questioned! This, in light of the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Which brings Moore to the point of his film - that September 11 was just an excuse for President Bush to do what he wanted to do all along: finish the job his father was unable to finish in Iraq to secure the rights to Iraqi oil.

Moore posits that, if there was an attack to be made, it should have been targeted at Saudi Arabia. But a Saudi attack would never happen because of the Bush family ties to Saudi money and, more importantly, that Saudi investments in America (totalling just under a trillion dollars), represent 6% of the U.S. stock market.

You thought we were in a recession before? Imagine if 6% of the money in the stock market vanished overnight.

The icing on the cake (or the chickpeas in the falafel) happens when Moore sets up his camera across the street from the Saudi embassy in Washington. Before he can say Falujah, Secret Service agents have arrived to interrogate him - kinda like how agents appear in The Matrix (except this wasn't scripted.) Moore hadn't approached anyone at the embassy, but was simply on the opposite side of the street.

"I didn't know that the Secret Service protected foreign embassies," Moore said.

"We don't," the official said. "Usually."


I've gotta say that I've been waiting for Bush to get roasted for four years, and now Michael Moore has tied it up and boxed it in a nifty two-hour package. My only regret is that Moore perhaps went a little too far. His excessively sardonic tone is about as balanced as the Supreme Court.

In fact, very early in the film, Moore includes footage of himself and Bush at a Bush fundraiser in 2000:

"President Bush, do you have any words for me?" Moore yelled, briefly passing the President in a rush of people.

"Be good," Bush said. "And find some real work!"

Can you say vendetta?

Sadly, because of this, Fahrenheit 9/11 is not going to change anyone's mind. While this documentary is based in fact, it is so editorialized that it will only further polarize the body politic.

If you didn't like Bush before, Moore's film will make you hate him. If you hated him before, well, it'll push you to hateration hysteria. And if you actually like Bush (poor soul), I would highly recommend that you not waste your money because you will walk out of the theatre faster than you can say Weapons of Mass Destruction.

prop·a·gan·da \Prop`a*gan"da\ n.

3 : ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect

As imbecilic as baby Bush is, if the Democratic Party National Convention doesn't have free mass screenings of Fahrenheit 9/11 (which is the greatest political ad ever) next month in Boston, they're the real idiots.

So enjoy!


ACT NOW AND BE COUNTED: If you've moved recently (or even if you haven't), November will be here before you know it. Be sure you're registered to vote!!!

1 comment:

BLUE said...

if you do not connect yourself with a newspaper soon, hoyt jr., i am going to ride you like a haint in the night ... or worse, start a marketing campaign to direct folks' eyeballs to this website. this is such a laser-sharp look at what goes on in our contemporary world. i DO NOT want my granddaughter to have to go dig you up at an AUC library. you're just too damned good for that, bro. light! ~BLUE